WASHINGTON — A survey of men to be ordained in the United States in 2014 shows a slightly younger ordination class, though the U.S. bishops still hope to increase the number of priests, and specifically Hispanic priests
“The number of new priests remains steady, and the quality of the new priests is stellar. They have a solid educational background to minister in the contemporary U.S. Church,” Bishop Michael Burbidge, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, said May 15.
“However, we need more priests, and we need them especially from the Hispanic community,” the Raleigh, N.C., bishop said, according to the U.S. bishops’ conference reports.
Bishop Burbidge remarked upon a new survey from the Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. The center surveyed men about to be ordained to the priesthood in 2014. About 77% of the estimated 477 ordinands responded to the survey, representing 114 dioceses and archdioceses and 31 religious orders.
About 67% of the respondents said their primary race or ethnicity is “Caucasian/European American/White,” 15% said they are Hispanic or Latino and 11% said they are Asian or Pacific Islander.
The bishops’ conference said that the percentage of Hispanic new priests represents about half of the Catholic Hispanic population, about 30%. However, a report on Hispanic ministry in Catholic parishes released earlier this month by Boston College and the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate suggests that Hispanics make up 40% of Catholics in the United States.
Bishop Burbidge said the U.S. bishops have made fostering more vocations to the priesthood, especially among Hispanic Catholics, their “top priorities.”
“We encourage all the faithful to pray for these special intentions,” he said.
The survey of 2014 ordinands found they have a median age of 32, a slight decrease from 2013. About 30% of the new priests were born outside of the United States, with Mexico and Vietnam being most represented.
About 10% were converts to Catholicism, mainly from a Protestant tradition.
About half attended a Catholic elementary school, 41% attended a Catholic high school, and 45% attended a Catholic college. Eighty percent served as an altar server, and about half served as a lector. About 68% regularly prayed the Rosary, while 70% participated in Eucharistic adoration regularly before entering the seminary.
Ordinands said they first considered a vocation to the priesthood at the average age of 17. Seventy-one percent were encouraged in their vocations by a priest, and some were also encouraged by friends, parishioners and family.
Sixty percent said they had some type of full-time work experience before entering seminary, and about 54% finished college before entering.
Some 26% of ordinands had education debt when they entered seminary, with an average school debt of around $21,000.